Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Survivor: State of the Union

President Obama made many notable statements during the State of the Union Address, and Boehner’s facial expressions (or lack of facial expressions) were notable too. Unfortunately, I was distracted from both by the idea of the Designated Survivor.

The State of the Union Address is pretty much an assassin’s dream; he could take out dozens of officials with one weapon. So the Secret Service picks a person in the line of succession, usually the Secretary of Something-whose-department-won’t-make-headlines, to survive any possible attack. The only requirements are that they are eligible: they must be a natural born citizen and over 35 years old. For one night, this person receives presidential level security in an undisclosed location and, despite being maybe a dozen deaths away from the role, mentally prepares to become the next POTUS.

Like most things of the Cold War Era, I’m skeptical about the logic behind this plan. It seems like having an Apocalypse Plan: compelling to think about but not likely to be needed. Even if it is needed, I’m not convinced that the 15th next person in line to the Oval Office is ready to maintain a cohesive control of the government. Designated Survivors aren't even given special briefings or instructions. Still, the “what if” possibilities are fascinating.

If the worst had happened during the State of the Union Address in 1984, we would have had our first black president, Samuel Pierce. Black men have been designated three times since. There have also been one Lebanese, two Japanese, one Chinese, and three Hispanic Designated Survivors.

During the Presidential Inauguration in 1985, a mass assassination would have led to our first female president, Margaret Heckler. There have been two other female Designated Survivors, one of whom was designated twice. The only Designated Survivor who would have rocked the boat in both race and gender is Lebanese female Donna Shalala.

What do you think? Is this over preparedness, or completely necessary? Would the US have accepted a female president or a president of color 30 years ago?

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